Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC), in association with Art Circuit Touring Exhibitions, and WALK organised a public art-walking event at VARC at Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland from the 12 – 14 July 2013 . This event was  co-curated by Cynthia Morrison-Bell and Janet Ross, VARC, as part of Walk On, a season of Art-Walking events throughout the North East of England in the summer of 2013.

Selected artists and poets include; Atul Balla, Sarah Cullen, Chris Drury, Tim Knowles, Simon Pope, Ingrid Pollard, Sean Borodale, Mike Collier & Brian Thompson

Morrison-Bell and Ross said that ‘This two-day participatory event focused on what might be called ‘art-walks’ – performances or events in which leading artists work directly with audiences and participants. Each walk was led by an artist who uses different media to explore how walking alters perceptions of the place or site, and of the self. We selected a panoramic range of artists to represent the different modes of engagement with walking. They work with or through sound, words, choreographed movement/performance, installation, architectural interventions, and through day and night time activity. In each instance, the direct involvement of the public was key’.

The artist-curated and led walks were complemented by a programme of other walks, related activities, and events that illuminated what walking as a ‘medium’ for creating artworks means in the twenty first century.

Collier and Thompson showed new work in the gallery (the adjacent barn) at Highgreen for this event. Thompson’s sculptures where based on a walk he completed in North Northumberland near to Highgreen Manor in 2013, and Collier’s work (Field Notes) represented a reflective record of the notes (made in his journal) drawn from his walk up the Tyne and the North Tyne in 2011 (an event funded by VARC).

Collier also led a short walk (with natural historian Keith Bowey)/colour workshop using locally-produced artists’ pastels whose 400 colour range, Unison Pastels, was created by artist John Hursey, and inspired directly by walking in the surrounding landscape.

WALK supported a panel discussion about Art-Walking on the evening of 13 July which was chaired by Collier with participating artists and other academics as well as interested visitors to the event (including a faith worker, a mindfulness teacher, a hill shepherd and a local farmer).

The artists and poets were joined by a local farmer, a hill shepherdess, a mindfulness teacher and a vicar from a parish in Jesmond. Collier said that ‘We discussed why and how we walked – whether practically, as a part of a job or to gain a better understanding of the environment we lived and worked in – or both. Surprisingly, there did seem to be a general consensus – which was that artists, farm workers, mindfulness teachers and the church actually  shared a similar ‘vision’ of the world as experience through walking. The only difference lay in the way that each mediated that experience – and all agreed that this rich variety of approaches was vital to an understanding of the world we live in; and indeed that walking – and the way we walked (pace, rhythm, attentiveness, openness to all our senses) played a key role in our emotional, spiritual and embodied experience of the world – a connection to the environment that was crucial to its future survival, and our need to live and work in it.’

Please click here to see a series of photographs by Mark Pinder documenting this weekend of events.

All photos copyright Mark Pinder